Metro Detroit officer placed on unpaid leave following racist post

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Posted at 5:07 PM, Feb 24, 2021

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (WXYZ) — A Sterling Heights police officer has been taken off the streets after 7 Action News exposed a racist Facebook post that sparked an internal investigation.

Sterling Heights police say they immediately launched an internal investigation after they were made aware of the racist post shared by one of their officers. The officer is now on unpaid leave.

Citizens have shared their outrage over the post after 7 Action News spent time on the city’s streets showing them the image. The post shows George Floyd preceding his death, with a Minneapolis police officer placing his knee on his neck. The disturbing case has led to that officer's firing and murder charges filed against him.

Now, 7 Action News has learned that same image has been shared this week by a Sterling Heights officer with the words, “When you gotta change a tire but don’t wanna get your trousers dirty.”

“It’s enough of that. We had enough of that,” said one citizen we spoke with. Another adding, “In my personal judgment, I wouldn’t post anything like that.”

A third person telling 7 Action News, “It just doesn’t show compassion in any type of way.”

The city’s chief of police says once an internal investigation is done, the officer who is not yet being named could face serious discipline up to and including termination.

“If we’re not policing our own guys, I don’t blame any resident for not trusting a police officer when they get pulled over or arrested,” says Chief Dale Dwojakowski.

He adds, “As a police officer when you post something it carries tremendous weight. That’s why we have a policy that says you can’t post anything inflammatory against a religion, race, gender. Nothing like that. It’s all prohibited.”

Ellis Stafford is a retired Michigan State Police inspector who serves on the board of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, known as NOBLE. He says the level of insensitivity, in this case, is breathtaking and suggests racial bias in the officer’s approach to policing.

“When you have officers like this that do damage to the industry, you really need to question as a Chief do I really want this person as part of my department and should they be in the industry,” Stafford said. He also points out this is not the only time in recent history a cop has betrayed citizens' trust.

In mid-2020, Shelby Township Police Chief Robert Shelide kept his job after a suspension for racially offensive tweets. We have also requested a comment from the Sterling Heights officers union, but haven’t heard back. We’ll make sure that the officer is held accountable and bring you the latest updates as soon as they happen.

The City of Sterling Heights also released a statement addressing the officer's actions:

The city of Sterling Heights disavows the abhorrent imagery and messaging that appeared in the post. Immediate action was taken by the Police Chief upon learning of it, including placing the officer on unpaid administrative leave and initiating an internal disciplinary investigation. The Police Department is committed to completing the investigation and disciplinary process as quickly as possible. It must be clear that there is no place for hateful and offensive content like that within our community. It does a grave disservice to the City, the dedicated men and women of the Police Department who protect and serve each and every Sterling Heights resident and business, and all those who call it home. We remain committed to building and ensuring a tolerant and accepting city that is inclusive and safe for all.